He looked at the illuminated clock on the dashboard of his SUV. It flashed back at him, 9:30 P.M. Where had the night gone? He thought with sarcasm. Well let’s see, first they went to a seafood restaurant but didn’t eat there because of the old building thing, and then they went to get a lovely ice cream sundae that as it was he couldn’t finish either because they had to leave rather abruptly and rush across town to a particular grocery that his lovely companion just had to get to, and quickly at that. In the seat next to him what he could detect in the semi-darkness was a very nervous individual staring out the window, fidgeting her feet, and occasionally glancing at her watch. What was the rush? Was she going to miss a sale?
And on top of that he was really hungry. Maybe he could grab a bag of chips at the grocery. He cleared his throat to get her attention that he felt sure was a million miles away from him at the moment. Her profile turned slightly in his direction. “How are you doing?”
Her voice was barely audible, “I’m okay. Are we almost there?”
“Yep, just a few minutes.”
“I know this must seem a bit odd to you Jacob.”
“Well, yeah, kind of.”
“I appreciate your indulgence. I’m just not feeling well, and I need to get a special vitamin from this grocery.”
“Sort of a medicine type vitamin.”
He nodded, why did this sound like a load of bull to him? But then again, she did say she was just getting over, what was it, bronchitis? So maybe it was plausible, maybe but it still felt very thin. He pulled his SUV into the parking lot of Wholesome Natural Foods. As soon as they stopped, her hand was on the door, “I can just zip in and get it if you like.”
“No, I’ll come. I’m a little hungry. Maybe I can find something edible in there.”
She smiled, but it was strained. And she didn’t want him coming. Why? Private vitamins? He was way too curious to let this slide. They got out of the car and walked to the entrance. Light snowflakes were continuing to fall out of the sky. As they crossed into the entrance, in a highly agitated manner she turned to him and abruptly said, “You don’t mind if I go and find what I need?”
He smiled calmly, “of course not.” And then she quickly disappeared into the store. More than almost anything he really hated questions prefaced with “You don’t mind.” They weren’t really questions at all, just affirmations looking for a hook-up. So, there was no question what he would do. He would follow Aimee and find out what all this was about.
She pushed him from her mind. She couldn’t deal with Jacob’s suspicions right now. She was here for a reason. Opening herself, she began to feel the pull. There was no distinct direction to where she was traveling. It was the cry that she was following, the emotional cry. She paused in the middle of an aisle. It was very close, perhaps yards away. It felt as though if she rounded the corner, she would come face to face with her. Instead she breathed deeply, closing her eyes and allowing herself to be drawn in.
As her mind moved closer each breath became sharp, likes slashes from a blade along her ribs. It was the pain that felt like tangible damage — so much upset, waves and waves of panic, despair, surrounding her so tightly that it became a kind of insanity. She’d encountered this before. The distortion of all the emotion corrupted the mind. Nothing could be seen clearly. All perceptions were hopelessly polluted.
She must clear it away, even just for a little while before the young woman that she was connecting to did something irreparable. She calmed herself completely, wiping away any traces of her own emotion. She had to be a clean slate for this.
Aimee knew she was about to do something that she’d been warned against, something that was reserved for only the most desperate of moments. She willfully opened her spirit and took into herself all of the pain that she had sensed. It all came in at once like a black drape falling over her and suffocating her without mercy.
Lydia’s hands trembled. They had not stopped shaking since earlier that evening when her boyfriend informed her that he was moving out. He was going, knowing that she had just discovered she was pregnant. He didn’t care. It wasn’t his problem.
She didn’t really care that he was going that much. It wasn’t as if his leaving was so detrimental. Things had been going downhill for some time, but she had stayed with him because there was nowhere else to go. She had given up everything for this relationship and cut all ties to safety. And now he had left, leaving her in an apartment she couldn’t pay for, with bills, with a baby on the way. With her life completely ruined. And she was tired, so tired at twenty-one.
She’d thought about knives earlier and had almost done it. But then decided there was a better way. She would use the credit card that he’d left behind. There was one he’d forgotten to take. She could. She’d use it to buy a bottle of wine and then take pills. There were some kind of tranquilizers in the cabinet. And she’d do it and be done with it all. Be done with the pain of it all. And then he’d be sorry. Everyone would see how badly he’d treated her.
Her fingertips trembled as they brushed the labels of the wine bottles. Her insides shook, every part of her did. She’d walked over from her apartment. It was several blocks away. And she thought about her Mom. Would she be sad when it was over? Would she be sorry for the things she’d said when she left? Would she be sorry too? Would anyone?
And she didn’t think of it as a baby at all, because soon they’d both be gone, and all this pain would stop.
She finally reached out and just grabbed a bottle of wine. And then the dizziness came. The bottle of wine fell to the hard floor of the store and shattered all around her feet.
It was a swirling dizziness. Then a strange warmth wrapped around her, like a soft warm blanket that she couldn’t see, just wrapping around her. It wrapped tight, but it was so soft. It didn’t hurt, and she could see blue everywhere, the bluest sky. She breathed in deeply, it had stopped hurting, for a minute it had stopped hurting.
There were things she remembered now. The things she wanted to do — traveling, going to college. Was it impossible? There were dreams, all the dreams she’d forgotten again, all there in front of her. She carefully walked around the broken pieces of glass so that they would not cut her.
Maybe she could try her parents. She could call and try. If they wouldn’t help, there was a sister. She could try. It might be okay. She could try. She remembered a pay phone outside. She could charge the call on his credit card. She could try. And she picked up her pace as she headed out the store.
Stop, she heard in her mind. It’s done. Everything around her was spinning. She was too weak to have tried this. But she sensed the young woman leaving. There was a chance now. There was hope that she might make a different choice. She willed herself to walk forward. But she felt so sick, sick to her stomach.
Must get to the vitamins, had to pick up something or Jacob. She put her hand on a shelf to steady herself. She could literally barely move. She had drained herself too much. There were footsteps behind her. And then she felt arms go around her waist in support.
She wanted to respond but didn’t. She did as he asked, just tried to breathe. There was warmth, a tingling emanating from his hands, his arms, his body a strength seeping deeply into her. He was giving her energy, powerful energy. “I had a weak spell.” She managed to get out.
He had maneuvered so her arm was draped across his shoulder and he was supporting her with an arm around her waist. “What do we need to get here, because I want to get you home quickly?”
She straightened up. Her head was still pounding, but she felt much better. “In the vitamin section, I think I can walk now.”
Reluctantly, he removed his arms, evidently skeptical about her sudden recovery. He still maintained a hand on her back, just in case there was a relapse she suspected. The energy continued to pour out of his hand into her, reviving her. She felt a bit better and didn’t want him to get tapped out. But it did feel good, very good in fact. “I got turned around in here, when I started to feel weak.” Haphazardly she tried to fill in the blanks with explanations.
“Are you sure you don’t need a doctor?”
“No, let me just get what I need, then we can go.”
“Fine, but I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
As they slowly headed toward the pharmacy section, she commented, “I guess I kind of ruined your evening.”
His face was still very serious, bordering on stern, “No actually. It’s been one of the most eventful evenings I’ve spent in a very long time.”
Perhaps he was a bit out of line, perhaps pushy, but he was concerned about her. She still looked shaky although her color was a bit better since the incident in the grocery store. It was clear to him that when they pulled into the parking lot of her apartment that Aimee was anticipating ending the evening there, but he had insisted on seeing her inside to make sure that she was well. She seemed a bit surprised but didn’t brook nearly the resistance that he’d anticipated.
As they crossed the threshold of the apartment, something hit him immediately — the brightness and airiness of the room, even before he focused on anything concrete. As he shrugged out of his trench coat and draped it across what appeared to be a beige sort of rattan, rocking chair, he commented, “Why don’t you rest, and I’ll make you a cup of tea.”
Aimee had already sunk down onto the sofa without even taking off her coat, sort of rubbing her head. He glanced around trying to quickly take in the surroundings. She had two plants in this room, two pastel looking pictures on the walls, some family photos on an interesting bookstand, and more of the furniture that had that light airy feel of the rocking chair, beach like. Nice stuff but none of it felt in any way permanent. “Could you make it peppermint?” She looked at him with a sort of wan smile, “I find it soothing. And make some for yourself. There are all kinds there.”
He nodded, still feeling concerned. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be okay. I think I just pushed too hard tonight. I have to take things a little slower.”
He motioned to the light wood coffee table in front of her sofa. “Put your feet up. I’ll be right back.”
Her hands trembled slightly as she lit the two pillar candles on the top of the bookcase by the door. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. They were lightly scented with vanilla. That was soothing, comforting. It reminded her of home.
There always seemed to be candles around the house when she was growing up. Some were couched in decorative arrangements that hung on the wall, some in elaborate candlesticks, like the ones in the dining room. And then there were also several in her room, seldom lit, except on those quiet, serene nights when she was up late reading. Her mother Anna would noiselessly glide into her room. It didn’t happen that often, maybe once or twice over several months. But those rare instances were precious to her. Sometimes they would take turns reading to each other. At other times, and these were Aimee’s most favorite, they would sit whispering to each other. Anna would light a candle, and they would speak to each other through the shadows, watching the reflection of the flames mutate into fantastical shapes on the walls.
Those moments, that were so sharply engraved in her memory, she recalled with both joy and with the deepest remorse she had ever felt. Not with the emotions of a child but as another seeking soul walking through the world, she came to know how truly unhappy her mother was. First, she knew without words through her gift, the gift that hid no truths from her immature heart. And then, as she always remembered, through the words her mother spoke one late night in the dimly lit room. “Be very careful who you give your heart to Aimee. There’s nothing more devastating than to wake up and realize that the person you’ve given your most precious gifts to, who you’ve given your youth to, has no understanding and worse no appreciation of who you really are.”
Her words Aimee would replay in her mind as the years passed, and she grew into womanhood. She watched her parents as she and they grew older become even more distant through the years, staying married but growing progressively separate. It seemed as though the disappointment in Anna Marston changed or rather evolved into a calmer more sedate emotion, perhaps acceptance. And the greatest joys that her mother experienced in her life were largely solitary.
But the candles did mean something to her. Aimee did remember them as something familiar, perhaps magical, although she never forgot the words that had accompanied them.
For a moment lost in the past, she had forgotten that she was not alone in the apartment. She heard movement in the kitchen, and at first it startled her. Her mind was still so cluttered and inundated by the pain she’d literally absorbed from the girl. It would take a bit of time to get this one out of her system. Her eyes passed over the trench coat that lay thrown across her rocking chair. The small nautical clock literally crafted of seashells that her father had sent her from Louisiana chimed on the wall. It was late. What a very long day it had been. It surely felt as though she’d lived a week in this one day. And yet it was not over. And she found that realization a bit unsettling.
The thought of Jacob in her house, looking at her things left her with an odd, anxious feeling. People rarely came here. To say that she had shut herself off from the mainstream of life at the moment seemed like a vast understatement. Bringing anyone into her apartment felt a bit like opening some sacredly, guarded tomb that had been unseen for thousands of years, or perhaps it was bringing this man in particular here that elicited these emotions.
She turned and again was caught off guard. How he could catch her unaware so often was freakish in itself. Her sensitivity was supposed to preclude that possibility. There he stood in the doorway, holding two steaming mugs in his hands. “You’re up,” he commented looking a bit wary. Of course, she supposed that was to be expected. She had put him through it tonight.
“Yes, I’m feeling better,” she answered quietly, although in truth that feeling of disorientation was still clinging to her unmercifully.
His eyes passed quickly over the candles that she’d lit on the table. “Atmosphere?”
She swallowed, not exactly sure what he meant by that, “I find them calming.” He nodded seeming to move on but continuing to look at her very strangely. It was more than a bit unsettling, “What is it?”
“I was wondering if you were going to spend the evening in your overcoat.”
She looked down at her sleeves. He was right. She was still wearing it. How ridiculous. She started to shrug it off. “Yeah, I’m a little out of it. Did you find the tea?” she asked distractedly as she draped her coat over his, making it over to the hall closet just now seemed like a monumental effort.
“Yeah,” handing her one of the mugs. “I hope you don’t mind I decided to try the black tea with lemon.”
She sat down on the sofa trying to calm her still trembling insides and took a steaming mouthful. It burned a bit but did taste good. “Let me know how it is. I haven’t tried that one yet.”
She breathed in deeply feeling a bit odd. She couldn’t remember ever having a man sitting on her couch so late at night. But here he was, looking perfectly comfortable. Then again, he gave the appearance of being at ease mostly anywhere, even when he said he wasn’t. “Well, I haven’t tried any of them.”
Okay they were making conversation now, hmm. “Oh yes that’s right, the coffee drinker.”
“Yes, I’m feeling a deja vu coming on.”
She giggled a bit and slouched deeper into the couch. Some of the anxiety that she’d absorbed from the girl in the grocery was beginning to taper off. Maybe it was him. It was undeniable that his presence was calming to her in some ways, in some.
Without warning he quietly reached over and softly grasped her hand in his. She glanced at him with a bit of surprise, but his expression was placid, as though this was the most natural thing in the world. She thought to take her hand away, particularly when those familiar racing sensations in her blood that happened whenever they made physical contact resumed. But she didn’t. It was clear to her that she gained strength from him, whether he was aware of it or not. And, at the moment, this was something she needed. “So, you seem to be doing better.”
She nodded, “I am, sorry about all that.”
“It’s all right,” he murmured, “You just had me worried.” She was curious. So, she allowed herself to open a bit. She had to tread carefully here, because of the powerful energy from him that had overwhelmed her at the bookstore.
The impressions came subtly at first but with an underlying strength, like a strong undertow beneath the innocuous waves.
She sipped her tea, allowing herself to feel but continuing with the surface conversation, “So what’s you next move. I mean now that the opening is over.” She could indeed feel that he was concerned about her as he’d voiced, but there was more. There was puzzlement, a restlessness to unravel and understand something.
“Oh, it’s pretty much in Bob and Frances’ lap right now. The collection will be there for about a month, and they’ll field any offers that come their way. So, I’ll just get back to work.” He continued to hold her hand but was unconsciously tightening his grasp a bit as she continued to gain impressions.
“You mean painting?” She could see his studio in his house, canvases, paints, and waves and waves of intense emotion. This was where that placid exterior of his became unleashed. She tried to calm herself. It would be so easy for her to be pulled in. Clearly, she was vulnerable to him, in a way that she had not experienced before.
He replied to her question, the one she had forgotten she’d asked. “Yeah and I have commercial gigs with magazines.”
“That sounds interesting,” she responded. The images were getting confusing now, a strange powerful swirl. Again, she felt a familiarity with him, another life, the desert all around and power, surges of unfathomable power. Deliberately, she pulled herself back and surfaced to find him staring at her oddly. Of course, he must have felt something.
Although at the moment, he seemed a bit amused at her as though he knew she was not at all interested in the conversation at hand. “It’s not, but it pays the bills. So, does your family miss you?”
“Family?” It took her a minute. Ah he’d shifted gears on her. He laced his fingers with hers, making her heart skip a beat.
“From Louisiana?” He prodded.
“Oh well, it’s just my Dad now though he’s remarried. My Mom died before I left. Of course, there are cousins and all. How about you?”
“Opposite sort of, my Dad has passed away and my Mom lives in North Carolina. I’ve tried to get her to come here, but she doesn’t like it.”
She was watching him curiously. He’d pulled her hand still entwined with his closer to his face studying the ring on her finger. Perhaps a little too breathlessly Aimee continued onward, “She doesn’t like it here, your Mom?”
He looked up at her, “You sound surprised. This is pretty, is it Celtic?”
Trying to be innocuous Aimee gently extracted her hand and then wrapped it around the tea mug to accompany the other hand. “Yes, my grandmother gave it to me.” He seemed unfazed, although a bit, and this was irritating, amused. She rambled to fill in the awkwardness, “I am a bit surprised about your Mom. I just thought this was the city that everyone falls in love with. At least that’s how the locals portray it.”
Calmly he noted, “I take it you don’t share their opinion.” And then he lightly brushed back a few strands of hair away from her cheek. He definitely seemed intent on touching her. And sitting here on her couch after the night they’d had, she wasn’t entirely sure this was the wisest course of action.
She shrugged trying to ignore his gesture, “I think home means something different to everybody. So why doesn’t your Mom like it?”
He frowned a bit. She could feel his shifting emotions on her skin. He was indulging her, but his mind was occupied elsewhere. “She doesn’t like the vibes here. And my younger sister lives in North Carolina. She has kids so that is a big draw.” She leaned back, all of the sudden feeling a wave of fatigue washing over her. “So, no brothers and sisters?” he asked.
She shook her head, “No, only child, you know one of those spoiled only children types.”
“Yes, that struck me about you immediately that you must be one of those spoiled only children types.”
She laughed, “Oh, I have my moments.”
“That would be something to see, one of those moments.” She smiled. His voice felt warming to her. And then as fluidly as though they were still traveling along the same thread of conversation, he asked rather quietly, “By the way I wanted to ask you something.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Have you taken that vitamin you bought?”
Her breath caught, and she felt as though she’d tumbled into a trap. She’d forgotten. But evidently, he hadn’t. She looked for her purse. It was across the room with the bag next to it. “No, I guess I probably should.” She made a motion to rise, but his hand softly restrained her.
She looked to him a bit surprised. “Maybe you should just relax a bit.” He commented calmly. His expression told her clearly that he knew he’d been lied to, but he wasn’t going to push the issue, not at this moment anyway.
The snow had been a light one and had not impacted the roads leading up to his home. This was fortunate, and by the time he arrived it was closing in on midnight. He switched on the lights and headed to the kitchen almost immediately to fix himself a cup of instant hot chocolate. He’d considered a beer, but his mind was too active to drink just now, so he opted instead for the chocolate. It was a silly indulgence that he broke out to soothe particularly disgruntled moments.
There was no point in trying to go to bed yet. He was too wound up, and there was much to absorb.
He sat on a bar stool in front of the kitchen counter doing what could only be described by any observer as brooding. But there weren’t any observers and these barstools were Talia’s ideas. It was clear to him now, particularly at this late hour, that he’d left too many of Talia’s ideas alive in this house. Why she hadn’t taken some of those with her he couldn’t fathom just now. Although at the time, he supposed, he was grateful that she let things be uncomplicated. But now it didn’t feel uncomplicated. It felt as though she’d gotten her fresh start and left him with the baggage. He laughed morosely to himself. Maybe he was the baggage.
He frowned looking down at the three barstools. There should be three, she’d said, for the children. Because there would be three children who would be sitting there, waiting for dinner to be cooked, laughing, filling the house with—well perhaps just filling the house. Yep here was some of the regrets, lost dreams, some of the baggage he had his backside on right at the moment.
With distaste at this particular thought tangent he got up and walked to his panoramic front window. He could still see light snowflakes coming down, but they weren’t substantial enough to stick. They were too fragile to become anything of substance except a momentary glimpse of something beautiful.
He clicked his mug softly against the glass wondering vaguely if he had the gumption or power to smash it all the way through. Just why there was all this undirected power and frustration surging through him just now he wasn’t entirely sure. But he did finally allow his mind to flip back to the page that was really bothering him, that had incited this reckless surge of discontent within. The whole evening was, how could he sum it up, an exercise of growing confusion and puzzlement and for some indiscernible reason, yes, frustration. This strange, odd, compelling woman was beginning to drive him nuts.
After he’d come out with his comment or what could be interpreted as his accusation about the vitamins, she’d become guarded and withdrawn. Perhaps he shouldn’t have said it, but he needed her to know, well that he knew. If they were going to continue on with this, relationship in the making or whatever it was, she was going to have to know that she would have to be a lot more forthcoming. But of course, it didn’t have the effect he’d intended.
And she’d closed things down rather quickly, saying that she was feeling tired and did he mind, etcetera, etcetera.
He recalled clearly her eyes were very guarded when she told him at the door, “The show was really wonderful Jacob. You have a great deal to be proud of.”
And he’d tried to recover ground with, “It made a difference to me that you were able to be there.” She’d smiled, lightening just a tad. And then again, he’d taken her hand and that seemed to shake her a bit. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
She nodded, “Yes, nothing a little rest won’t cure.”
And then of course he did what he’d wanted to do all evening, what he’d wanted to do ever since he’d first glimpsed Aimee Marston. He gently pulled her closer and leaned in and kissed her. Clearly, she wasn’t expecting this. He could feel the surprise in her whole body. For such an incredibly beautiful woman, she seemed in his estimation very ill at ease with any physical contact. But she let him kiss her and seemed to relax in his embrace. He desperately wanted to kiss her more and longer, but something told him not to push his luck tonight. When he stopped and pulled back, he felt a soft tremble in the arms that he was holding with his hands. And he himself was breathing deeply with the emotion of it. “Look,” he said softly still so close to her face that he could easily kiss her again. The eyes that were cast downward looked up into his. He steadied himself. What was he saying? “I want to see you again Aimee. How about dinner or something Tuesday?”
She pulled back a bit. Was it fear, he was seeing? “Jacob, I think you’ve seen a bit tonight. My life is different, complicated. This might not be something you want to get involved with.”
He softly reached out and caressed the side of her face with his hand. “I think it’s pretty clear that I do. The question is what do you want?”
She looked down and then back to him, green eyes full of conflict. “I’m not sure.”
And that was that, pretty much where they left it. He considered several options on the way home. One was walking out of her apartment and forgetting every little detail about Aimee Marston and going on with life as it had been. He held the mug firmly in his grip staring at every centimeter of it as though there were an answer for him etched in it somewhere. But there didn’t seem a way to go back. Already things had shifted somewhere, and she was the catalyst. He’d already crossed some threshold, walked through a door completely unaware that had closed behind him.
He held the mug in his hands more firmly and then remembered. This was a set, this blue mug, a set of five for that other life they had dreamed about. For a moment more, he held it tightly in his hands and then deliberately smashed it to the floor. The broken shards smashed everywhere. He breathed deeply eyeing the fragments all around him. There was a satisfaction here, in this. Perhaps a release, something was awakening in him. This restlessness was just the beginning. Before it was done there would be more, he sensed, much more.
Copyright © 2019 by Evelyn Klebert
Jacob Wyss is caught in a rut, in fact on the verge of being engulfed by it. After an excruciating and disillusioning divorce, his life as an artist in a sleepy-college town at the foot of the Appalachian mountains has become quiet, routine, and maddening in its predictability. One wintry day, his deep restlessness drives him out in precarious conditions to a largely empty bookstore nearly devoid of another living soul, nearly.
Aimee Marston isn’t like everyone else. On the surface, she lives a sedate life working as a feature writer for a small local newspaper in addition to several other editorial jobs to help make ends meet. But just beneath, her existence is largely not her own. She is a sensitive, an empathetic psychic, guided by her calling to use her gifts to help others. Unfortunately, as a result, her secretiveness has made her defensive, protective of herself, and prevented her from having much of a life of her own.
A psychic call for help sends Aimee out on a freezing January morning where her destiny and Jacob’s collide sending both their lives spiraling onto an unexpected and often disturbing track. Two lonely souls connect, not by accident, but by design. Theirs is the intersection of two spiritual paths, two lovers who must struggle to overcome the phantoms of a past life, as well as the challenges of their own inner demons to carve out an extraordinary future together.